Berkeley in the News Archive

The links to the stories summarized on this page are time sensitive, so stories might no longer be online at that URL. We also include links to the original source publication itself.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

1. UC Berkeley Study: Sports, Energy Drinks as Unhealthy as Soda
KQED Online

Pat Crawford, director of Berkeley's Atkins Center of Weight and Health, has led a study of sports and energy drinks, finding them packed with sugar and other additives that could pose health risks, especially for children. The finding is "troubling," she says, since the drinks are popular with children and teens, yet only one of the investigated additives -- ginger extract -- has been deemed "likely safe" by the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Caffeine content is a key concern. "Increasingly there are reports about children drinking too much caffeine and being admitted to emergency rooms for heart palpitation and problems they didn’t associate with the beverages,” she says. Full Story

2. Massive volcanic eruptions suggest Jupiter moon more active than thought

Two Berkeley papers have described massive volcanic eruptions that occurred on Jupiter's moon Io during a two-week period last August, discovered by astronomy professor and department chair Imke de Pater. "We typically expect one huge outburst every one or two years, and they’re usually not this bright," Professor de Pater says. "Here we had three extremely bright outbursts, which suggest that if we looked more frequently we might see many more of them on Io.” She is the lead author on one of the papers; the other's lead author is graduate student Katherine de Kleer. Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources around the world, including Space Daily, Tech Times, CNET, Daily Mail (UK), and Forbes Online. Full Story

3. Photo editing tool enables object images to be manipulated in 3-D
R&D Magazine

A team including electrical engineering and computer science professor Alexei Efros, formerly of Carnegie Mellon but now at Berkeley, created a photo editing tool that lets users manipulate images in 3-D so that objects can be turned or flipped and even originally hidden surfaces can be exposed. Although the system is designed for use with digital imagery, it can also be used with paintings and historical photos. Full Story

4. Cal, City of Berkeley take steps to curb water use

The Berkeley campus is stepping up its efforts to curb water use during the drought. Sal Genito, associate director of Grounds, Custodial and Environmental Services, says there are challenges with an irrigation system that was built more than 50 years ago, and in the slope of the campus, but watering has been reduced by 10 percent, staff are monitoring runoff from lawns, and his office is leading an effort to update the system with new technology. Meanwhile, the campus is also allotting funds for a new landscaping initiative that will convert six lawns to drought-resistant meadows. Lisa McNeilly, director of sustainability for the campus, says that initiatives have already reduced the university’s total water use by 17 percent since 1990, even though the campus’s population and infrastructure has grown since then. The sustainability team's current goal is to reduce potable water levels to 10 percent below 2008 levels by 2020 and 20% below 2008 levels if adjusting for population increases. Full Story

5. Delays Persist for U.S. High-Speed Rail
New York Times (*requires registration)

Despite enormous U.S. investments in high-speed rail projects since 2009, little progress has been made. Civil engineering professor C. William Ibbs explains why that might be, noting that countries with successful high-speed rail projects had higher population densities, higher gas prices, higher rates of public-transportation use and lower rates of car ownership. “So it wouldn’t make any sense to have a high-speed rail train in most areas of the United States," he says. "The geography is different and other factors are just too different.” Full Story

6. School reforms that actually work
Washington Post

A school reform model studied by public policy professor David Kirp is discussed in an article about reforms that have proven successful. His Improbable Scholars report concentrates on one school district, in Union City, New Jersey, although he also references districts implementing a similar model, including Sanger in California. Professor Kirp says that there are no “silver bullets,” no overnight transformations available in reform that works. It just takes hard work sustained over time by stable school staffs and managers. Full Story

7. Does Hosting the Olympics Actually Pay Off?
New York Times (*requires registration)

A 2009 study co-authored by economics professor Andrew Rose found that countries that host the Olympics experience a significant increase in trade, although it also found that this was true as well of countries that made losing bids for the Olympics. The unsuccessful bidders spent tens of millions rather than billions, but apparently reaped the benefit of simply signaling that their countries are open for business. Full Story

8. Deal Book Op-Ed: New Buying Strategy as Facebook and Google Transform Into Web Conglomerates
New York Times

Law professor Steven Davidoff Solomon writes about leading Internet companies like Facebook and Google, which are "have been busy transforming themselves into web conglomerates, making fortunes for the venture capital industry." He asks if the trend is "good for everyone else." Full Story

9. The Next Big Thing You Missed: Startup Offers Payday Advances Without the Pesky Loan-Sharking

Assistant business and finance professor Adair Morse comments on ActiveHours, a Palo Alto startup that allows hourly workers immediate access to pay they've already earned, without waiting for their employer's standard payday. She says it is a smart idea that’s meeting a very real need for low cost alternatives to payday loans, but also warns it may be overly vulnerable to abuse. She also points out that ActiveHours' reliance on donations could backfire. “People assume someone else is better able to step up and contribute,” she says. “This whole idea of donations sounds great, but we’re talking about people who are constrained. They don’t have savings. They have debt.” And, if the donation model doesn’t work, she says, ActiveHours reserves the right to change its fee structure at any point. Full Story

10. Lyft Tries to Coax Commuters to Leave Their Cars
New York Times (*requires registration)

A story about Lyft, a ride service that lets users call a car using a smartphone app, quotes Susan Shaheen, co-director of Berkeley's Transportation Sustainability Research Center. She says: “You need a substantial database so that when people request a ride, the service can fulfill it without long wait times,” and that, the article says, may be where Lyft has an advantage. Shaheen is the author of a history of car-pooling in North America. Full Story

11. Scientists Named to Influential List for Combustion Research
Independent (Livermore, Pleasanton, Sunol and Dublin)

Alumnus William Pitz, a Lawrence Livermore scientist, has been named to the Thomson Reuters list of "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds" for his work on combustion modeling. His research aims at developing chemical kinetic mechanisms for conventional fuels like gasoline and diesel fuel, and also for next-generation fuels, such as new types of biofuels being considered as potential replacements for fossil fuels. He earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Berkeley. Full Story

12. How Berkeley and UCLA Law Schools Responded to Ban on Affirmative Action
Inside Higher Ed

The National Bureau of Economic Research has issued a new study exploring the impact of California's ban on consideration of race in admissions on admissions rates for black students to the law schools at UC Berkeley and UCLA. The study finds a significant drop in the black admit rate -- from 61 to 31 percent, controlling for various factors. The 31 percent figure, the study finds, is still significantly higher than it would have been had the law schools focused largely on traditional admissions criteria such as test scores and grades. The finding suggests that the schools have minimized the loss of black students by placing greater emphasis on race-neutral factors. Another story on this topic appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education Online. Full Story

13. #AskEkman: How Do I Become a Facial Expression Expert?
Huffington Post

Berkeley's psychology department is recommended as a good place to study emotion and facial expressions. The department has four faculty members working on emotion, one of whom -- Professor Dacher Keltner -- studies facial expression. For those more interested in the physiology underlying emotion, Professor Robert Levenson is an expert on that. Full Story

14. Michael Phelps Is Back, and Everyone Is Watching
New York Times (*requires registration)

The USA Swimming national championships are taking place in Irvine this week. Among the Berkeley-affiliated competitors are alumnus Nathan Adrian and sophomore Missy Franklin, but television cameras are focused on Michael Phelps, who has ended his retirement and is looking for a comeback at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. “There’s all sorts of attention,” Adrian said, “and it’s great, but it’s a little distracting.” Franklin seems a bit more excited about having Phelps there. "Just having him on deck, the experience that he brings is incredible," she says. “Where else do you have the opportunity to have high school basketball players play in a game with LeBron James, you know? That’s literally what’s happening.” Franklin, a five-time medalist at the London Olympics, is also being watched for the women's 200 freestyle, in which she will race teenage phenom Katie Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Allison Schmitt. Full Story

15. Franklin's grades good as gold
San Francisco Chronicle

Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, now a sophomore at Berkeley, was a straight-A student her first year of college. "I was like, 'This is like eight best times,' " she said Tuesday in an interview at the USA Swimming national championships in Irvine. "I remember calling my parents, and that was just one of those moments where it's exactly like going a best time. You've put in all that work and all that effort, and you get an amazing reward." Full Story

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